Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM.O) unveiled new chips that it said will run many of the first phones capable of connecting to new 5G services next year.
The Snapdragon 855 includes a processor and modem to connect to wireless networks. It’s the latest version of Qualcomm’s flagship product that’s been the heart of most smartphones sold in the past decade.
“In the next few months, we’ll be able to see 5G flagship smartphones that people will be able to buy,” said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon at a company event in Maui, Hawaii. “This transition is bigger than the one we had with 3G and 4G. This will be much bigger.”
For the chipmaker, the new services can’t come fast enough. Qualcomm’s revenue and profit have slumped during a bitter legal fight with Apple Inc. (AAPL.O), which is no longer using its chips. That’s exacerbated the impact of cooling consumer interest in smartphones. Industry shipments shrank last year for the first time.
The largest U.S. carriers, AT&T Inc. (T.N) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ.N), appeared at Qualcomm’s event in Hawaii on Tuesday, after touting plans to offer 5G services in the first-half of next year. Samsung Electronics Co., the biggest phone maker, said it will have a 5G phone on the market by then using the new Qualcomm component.
Qualcomm said the 855 will outperform other chips in running artificial intelligence software such as image recognition and will also support phones capable of reading users’ fingerprints through screens.
Fifth-generation networks, known as 5G, promise a big step up in data speeds. The technology also reduces latency, or response time. That may support new mobile services such as remote medicine and automated traffic control. For the carriers, 5G uses a much broader range of air waves than current systems, including unlicensed spectrum that they don’t have to pay for. The extra capacity should lower their costs and incentivize them to get subscribers to move to 5G plans.